Fitness Training and Strategic Planning Are More Similar Than You Think. Trust Me.

You may or may not know this about me. I was a competitive figure skater for nearly half my life. I haven’t attempted a triple anything in a decade, but I still like to think of myself as an athlete, albeit a former one. So while I’ve traded in my skates for a variety of different foot ware, exercise is never just exercise. Exercise is about performance—how to train more efficiently to maximize my performance.

The pandemic did not make exercise easily accessible. So I finally caved and purchased a Peloton Bike. Needless to say, now I am obsessed with it. It’s a great workout. It gives me tons of data to track my performance. And the instructors provide me with endless amounts of thought-provoking quips.

Like, this past weekend, I took a Matt Wilpers Power Zone Endurance Ride. It was, basically, the Peloton equivalent to Strategic Planning 101. Yes, I am completely serious. Unfortunately, the ride did not begin with an explanation of strategic planning, so here is my warm-up to get us started.

Strategic planning is a continuous process that integrates various internal departments to ensure an organization achieves its long-term goals. The process helps organizations create a forward-focused vision to align the business. During this process, a roadmap is developed detailing the specific priorities and the supporting tactics. There are many strategy methodologies and frameworks, but I’ll dive into those in another post.

Now that we have a basic understanding of strategic planning as a concept, let me take you through my strategic planning 101 ride.


Part 1 | Have a Plan

I cannot emphasize this enough—you must have a plan! Jumping from strategy to execution is a sure way not to achieve your long-term goals, or at least effectively and efficiently. Developing a strategic roadmap and an execution plan are key elements in the strategic planning process.

The strategic roadmap helps articulate strategic thinking, strategic priorities, and the plan to execute this strategy. It explains the what (what an organization much change) and the why (why these changes are required). The execution plan defines the how. It describes how the organization will go about achieving the outcomes put forth in the roadmap.

Think of the roadmap as the bridge that connects the strategy and the execution.

Source: Peloton. Matt Wilpers, 60 min Power Zone Endurance Ride Ride. Retrieved April 26, 2021 from Peloton App. Screen recording by author.

Translating Matt’s fitness speak into business strategy speak:

  1. Each strategic priority within the roadmap has a specific purpose that ties back to the organization’s long-term goals.
  2.  The organization needs to execute the plan designed for each strategic priority to achieve success.


Part 2 | Know Your Priorities

One of the greatest benefits of strategic planning is aligning an organization behind a common goal and working as a team to reach it. Everyone within the organization needs to know what that goal is and the plan to achieve it. Communication is mission-critical to the success of the strategic planning process.

As the execution plan is implemented, obstacles, roadblocks, new learnings, etc., will happen, requiring adjustments, workarounds, or reimagination. And that is OK—it is part of the process. Knowing the strategic priorities will inform decisions or course corrections to ensure that the business continues to progress towards its goals.

Source: Peloton. Matt Wilpers, 60 min Power Zone Endurance Ride Ride. Retrieved April 26, 2021 from Peloton App. Screen recording by author.

Strategic planning takeaways:

  1. Ensure everyone within the organization knows the strategic priorities.
  2. It’s OK to deviate from the plan as long as the priorities remain the same.


Part 3 | An Ongoing Process

During the ride, Matt introduced the fitness training method of periodization. Periodization training is a systematic approach fitness that focuses on progression. If you continue to do the same fitness regime, the body eventually gets comfortable and plateaus. And the same is true in an organization.

Strategic planning provides a structured way for an organization to think about progression—it is an iterative process that will continue to evolve. It provides a context for analysis and measurement and an agile framework allowing for change, as needed while keeping the long-term goal in focus. Like with any fitness program, strategic planning requires time, effort, and continuous reassessment. But with the right attention, strategic planning ensuring organizations are always progressing towards a singular, forward-focused goal.

So…there you have it—fitness and strategic planning tied together in a blog. There are lessons to be found in everything that we do.